Body Positivity I
Michelle's Story: Loving the Girl in the Mirror
I was in the sixth grade the first time I said aloud, “I’m getting fat.” In reality, I was thinner than many of the girls my age. Sitting on the crunchy patient bed in the doctor’s office, she assured me, “According to the BMI for girls your age, you’re still underweight.” My brow furrowed, I couldn’t believe her. For some reason in my mind, I could not measure up to expectations. Where did these expectations come from? All these years later, I cannot remember, but I do remember how they made me feel – which was miserable.
I would spend the next three years in middle school and the next 4 years of high school battling my weight. In gym class, a poorly trained coach made us count all the calories we ate for 2 months, which became my way of life. I kept a little green notebook in my backpack and told myself this would help me eat mindfully when really I was depriving my body of the fat it needed. During the bad years, I’d exercise between one to three hours almost every day. Some days, I’d step on the scale up to three times a day, to measure where I was after each meal. Finally, after a particularly hard day of feeling down in the dumps, I knew I had to change the way I thought about controlling my weight. It seemed hopeless to my high, unattainable expectations, but over time here’s what changed for me:
My Relationship with Food
My food cravings were so bad from starving myself half the day, that I’d binge the second half of the day. Instead of depriving myself in the morning, I decided to give myself something filling and nutrient dense for breakfast. The best was scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, on a piece of sprouted-grain garlic toast, and goat cheese crumbled on top. Becoming my own chef, and allowing myself to cook with butter was the best decision I ever made in changing my relationship with food. The good fats helped me absorb the vitamins my body needed so badly. Over time, allowing these vitamins and fats into my diet slowed my extreme cravings. Initially, I gained weight, but it was worth it to not beat myself up all the time. Later, as my eating habits and lifestyle habits balanced out, even my weight stopped fluctuating. Oddly enough, it seemed that the less I worried, the less there was to worry about.
My Relationship with Exercise
Growing up a figure skater, I was able to do the kind of exercise I loved for eight years. But the tight costumes and ideas of what a figure skater should look like only fed into my insecurities. Eventually, I dropped skating for distance running on my high school track team. I pushed myself to run for at least an hour a day, even though I hated it.
After track season, I allowed myself to take long walks and wander to the distant edges of my town. Watching the sunset as I let my feet and mind wander made me appreciate those precious, quiet moments. I left all my stressors of the day at the door when I left. Finally, I could exercise without all the competition, pressure and pain that I made for myself in running.
Years later I discovered partner dancing, which became my second love. It always challenged me to grow and learn more. I didn’t even realize I was exercising, but unbeknown to me, my body was becoming strong and flexible. Far from the days of isolation and self-belittling, social dance brought me new friends and newfound confidence. Which brings me to my last point.
My Relationship with the Girl in the Mirror
It did not all happen at once, but rather little by little over many years, I stopped hating the imperfections I saw in the mirror. A wise girlfriend once told me, “comparison is the thief of joy,” which has been the theme of my journey of loving the girl in the mirror. I realized that as a small Asian girl, I would probably never look like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde and that as Michelle Wong, I had my own things going for me. Enhancing and focusing on “working what I got,” made me less focused on changing myself or beating myself up over what wasn’t really attainable.
Making a conscious effort to appreciate what I saw as my “beauty strengths” was a good first step, and self-forgiveness was another. I let myself wear glasses because poking myself in the eye, trying to put on contacts first thing in the morning was a pain. I now wear things that I love, no matter what the current trend is. I began to experiment with new and courageous looks, like hair color or makeup, which became positive and fun ways to express myself and celebrate my features.
Now it isn’t my goal to tell you that it’s bad to diet, go running, and look up to celebrities for style inspiration because that’s a straight up untruth. But I do want to tell you to eat healthy foods that you love, that treat your body with love. Don’t run because you’re a slave to the scale or whoever’s expectations, but find a way to exercise that makes you feel happier and more at peace. And most of all, make sure you prioritize you and your health over pursuing society’s beauty standards. Style fits you, you don’t have to change to fit style.
Find the things that aid you on your journey to health and self-love at Fruitful Yield. We’d love to be a part of your journey.
Michelle Wong, Fruitful Yield Staff Writer
*Content contained in this article is not intended to provide, nor constitute, medical or healthcare advice. Nor can it be relied upon as preventative care, cure, or treatment for any disease or medical condition. You should consult a qualified healthcare professional for advice regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and before starting any supplementation, nutritional, exercise, or other medical programs.